Ode to Hank

It has been nearly 10 years since Al McGuire left us for the dancing lights. Since then a number of members of the Marquette basketball family have passed on, including Bob Lackey, Larry McNeill, Pat Smith, Goran Raspudic, Maurice Lucas and most recently, Coach Hank Raymonds, who quietly passed away at age 86, on Monday, Dec. 6, after a tough fight with cancer.

Marquette has been gradually losing the touchstones to its glorious championship past. "Coach," as his widow Jinny always called him, was Marquette University's ambassador at large - and not just for basketball, but for all things Marquette. The championship touchstone burned so brightly in Coach Raymonds that we were naturally drawn to him.

We wanted to feel that aura and hear those glory days stories of yesteryear. He embraced fans, players, coaches, students and even basketball campers. In his quiet way, Coach reached out and touched those around him. He was our connection to Marquette's past, present and future because he never left Marquette or Milwaukee after his coaching and athletic director careers ended. Coach was, in effect, a Marquette Lifer.

I was fortunate to be one of those on the receiving end of his generosity. Over the course of my journalism career, I always felt comfortable calling Coach for information on various stories and books I was working on about Marquette basketball. As he did years earlier during my undergraduate days, Coach welcomed me to his home for interviews and always returned my phone calls.

Jinny always graciously prepared lunch for us, and I will never forget their hospitality. As he recounted stories of MU's championship seasons, Coach would become more animated and recall incidents with players, coaches and referees. He always made me feel like I was a part of something special. In his own way, he was helping me chronicle the legacy of the Marquette family he did so much to help build. Coach also was kind enough to write the dust cover notes for my second book ("Goin' Uptown: Marquette's March to Madness and Return to the Final Four") and speak at one of my book signings.

The Marquette family did get a chance to finally give back to Coach this past year. After beginning his fight with cancer, friends, fans, players and coaches began sending cards, letters and making get-well phone calls and visits to his Wauwatosa home. Close friends, like Coach Majerus, were regular visitors over the past year. Jinny and their five children responded to all of the good wishes by saying that Coach was determined to fight the good fight. And he did, like the true Warrior that he was.

Before Coach began his treatment regimen, he wrote a letter to the former Marquette basketball players, thanking them for their loyalty and love of the game of basketball, their teammates and the university. He reminded them of how they were always Warriors on the court and in the classroom, and to be proud of it.

Later that summer, many of those former players Coach had helped during his life came back to the McGuire Center and had a group picture taken, featuring Coach front and center. All returned to show him the love and appreciation for what he had meant to their lives. After Coach left his home for the Zilber Family Hospice in Wauwatosa, the visits continued with family members, players and close friends, including Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, who spent time with Coach the Friday before he died.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, the day after Coach's passing, Marquette was scheduled to play the University of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Bradley Center. A short tribute preceded the game, at which some fans in attendance remarked that it was so quiet they could have heard a pin drop on the floor of the Al McGuire Court. Marquette players wore commemorative HANK patches on their uniforms honoring Coach Raymonds. The gold HANK patch was positioned not far from the ever-present AL patch, which MU teams have worn since Al's passing in 2001. And Coach's seat at the scorer's table was conspicuously empty, as it was during the season.

Hundreds of members of the Marquette family braved the cold December winds to say their goodbyes at his wake in Brookfield, WI, on Sunday, Dec. 12. The line of mourners snaked around the interior of the Becker-Ritter Funeral Home past photos, mementos, basketballs, posters and plaques. One item in particular that stood out for a number of the mourners was a framed handwritten letter from Coach to one of his grandsons on the correct way to shoot a basketball, with step-by-step instructions. The strategically placed television monitors featured photos from Coach's personal and professional lives. Coach's life was flashing before our eyes.

Before a private interment, Coach's life was celebrated the next day at Milwaukee's Gesu Church. His coffin, draped with a Marquette Warriors banner, was carried into church by Doc Rivers, Jim McIlvaine, Robert Byrd, Terry Sanders, Mike Kinsella and representing the McGuire family, Allie McGuire. The funeral mass was concelebrated by longtime MU Team Chaplain Rev. William Kelly, MU President Robert Wild and Rev. Peter Drenzek, pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Coach's parish in Wauwatosa. His sons, Dan and Steve, chronicled his life before and after Marquette. Men's and women's coaches Buzz Williams and Terri Mitchell, along with their respective staffs, were among those paying their last respects. Many of the 50-plus former players who attended will be among those Continuing the Legacy, which just so happens to be the theme of this year's Marquette basketball team. One of those players, Robert Byrd, gave the final tribute to the Marquette legend whose life was an example for all of us. Byrd concluded his emotional tribute with: "We will always be Warriors."

One of the last times that I saw Coach was at Goran Raspudic's (1966-70 MU team manager) funeral in Milwaukee. I will always remember his admonition after the service: "Joey, always remember family. They're all you have."

Joseph Declan Moran is the author of "You Can Call Me Al: The Colorful Journey of College Basketball's Original Flower Child, Al McGuire" and "Goin' Uptown: Marquette's March to Madness and Return to the Final Four."

I learned firsthand about the importance of the Marquette family from Coach Raymonds in the summer of 1979 between my junior and senior years at Marquette. I was working on a story about his recruiting for the Summer Marquette Tribune. Up to that point I had never met Coach. I did a phone interview with him the previous fall after Artie Green's arrival in Milwaukee for the MU Trib.

Coach invited me to his office at the old 1212 Building to conduct the one-on-one interview. As I entered the office I noticed a rectangular sign above his office door that read: "HAVE FUN. PLAY HARD," which was his lifetime credo. "C'mon in, Joey," was his gregarious greeting as he sandwiched my hand in both of his. He then introduced me to Rick Majerus, who welcomed me to Marquette. Both coaches made me feel at home, which helped alleviate any pre-interview jitters I may have had at the time.

Since he knew that I was from the Chicago area, Coach asked if I knew anyone in Waukegan, IL. I mentioned the name Jack Conarchy, a family friend affiliated with Immaculate Conception Church. "You know Waukegan Jack!" he said with surprise."I stood up in his wedding at the Christian Brothers College in Memphis, Tennessee." Before I knew it, he began showing me photo albums from his days at CBC and St. Louis University, greatly enjoying the reminiscence. That connection was the beginning of my relationship with Hank Raymonds.

When we finally did get down to the interview, Coach related stories about recruiting Rod Foster, Sam Bowie and Ralph Sampson, and how MU was in the mix for the players but could get no closer than being among the six finalists. While Coach was disappointed, he was happy that MU was still in the mix for these highly recruited players. Hank Raymonds was a Happy Warrior.

Before coming to Milwaukee, Raymonds already was a winner. A standout in basketball, baseball and football, he was the first four-year basketball letterman at St. Louis University and helped lead Coach Eddie Hickey's Billikens to the 1948 NIT title, a time when the National Invitation Tournament was a bigger deal than the NCAA Tournament. As head coach at Christian Brothers College, Raymonds posted a 110-50 record from 1955-61 at the NAIA school, winning three District 27 titles in the process. Eventually, he followed Hickey to MU, where he served as an assistant to the "Little General" until Hickey's firing in 1964. Raymonds was considered for the top job that eventually went to Al McGuire. He accepted Al's invitation to stay on as top assistant. "We'll knock'em dead," Raymonds recalled Al telling him.

As coach of MU's freshman team, he put his X's and O's and education degree to work, making sure the team was disciplined and sound in the fundamentals of the game. Raymonds was a teacher and a straight shooter - with everyone - and believed in making the most out of practice. Hank was the guy whose job it was to find the devil in the details, even though he was educated by the Jesuits and stuck with them at MU. He was happy to make his important contributions behind the scenes and let Al work the banquet circuit and the media, publicly taking bows for the success of the basketball program. But Al knew how important Hank was to the team's success, and stated so many times during and after his years at Marquette. In fact, he referred to Hank many times as his "co-coach." Hank did enjoy ribbing Al about the fact that his CBC teams defeated Al's Belmont Abbey Crusaders the one time they played each other back in their formative days as basketball coaches.

Joseph Declan Moran is the author of "You Can Call Me Al: The Colorful Journey of College Basketball's Original Flower Child, Al McGuire" and "Goin' Uptown: Marquette's March to Madness and Return to the Final Four." Parts 2 and 3 of this article will be published here over Xmas weekend.

For many of the young men he coached, Hank was like a second father. And, in some cases, the only father. It was at this juncture in his career that he began cultivating relationships with his players that eventually lasted a lifetime. He endeared himself to the players by genuinely caring about their futures after basketball. He made sure they attended class and earned their degrees.

He kept after the players, even after they left MU. He made it his charge. When they needed help with anything in their lives, he was there. It was Hank who stayed in touch and started what turned into the Marquette family legacy. He imparted his wisdom of life on and off the basketball court to the campers that he taught at the old Medalist camps and Marquette's basketball camps, in addition to his 14 grandchildren.

His patience finally paid off after MU's 1977 National Championship when he was named the 10th coach in Marquette history, finally stepping out of Al McGuire's shadow. Patience was just one of Coach's many virtues. He was also a humble man, strong in his Catholic faith and a very good teacher. The role of emcee, which Al so often used to describe his manner of running the basketball program, did not fit Hank well. His wardrobe really did not change that much when he became head coach. He still favored the plaid couture of his coaching brethren. And he always found teaching moments during games, putting an arm on the shoulder of a player and pointing with the ever-present rolled-up program before sending a player back out onto the court.

Beginning with the 1977-78 season, Coach hit the ground running. He kept Marquette's basketball ship of state rolling right along. The Warriors compiled an impressive 24-4 mark that season en route to finishing #3 in the final United Press International poll. It was during MU's run to the NCAA Tournament that I first heard the players talk about the Marquette family, and how Coach had inculcated that value in the team. It seemed that the program did not skip a beat in the transition from Al to Hank.

During my junior and senior years at Marquette, I watched "The Maestro of The Mecca" choreograph the middle years of his six straight winning seasons. Coach won over 71 percent of his games (126-50 record) and brought the Warriors to postseason appearances every one of those years (five NCAA, one NIT). He coached five All-Americas, and 16 of his players were drafted by the NBA. I will always remember the rolled-up program, and how he would occasionally slam it to the floor when something did not go Marquette's way, showing his competitive side. The tighter the game, the tighter Coach rolled that program in his fist.

The next season (1978-79) the Warriors finished 22-7 and #10 in the country, according to that season's final AP Poll. That MU team was Coach's only one that advanced as far as the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Still, MU posted some big time wins against big time schools during the Raymonds Era, including Duke (at the old Wisconsin Fieldhouse), at Notre Dame and at Missouri. One of the most memorable wins was triggered by freshman Doc Rivers, one of Hank's greatest recruits and one of the most sought after players in the country out of Proviso East High School in Maywood, IL. Before a frenzied Mecca crowd, Rivers launched a prayer that banked in off the backboard to defeat Notre Dame as time expired in 1981. It still is referred to as "The Shot Heard Round Milwaukee."

Early in the 1982-83 season, Coach had announced he would retire at season's end and hand over the reins to Rick Majerus. He would concentrate full-time on his athletic director duties. After the Warriors completed a successful 19-9 season, Coach anxiously awaited the call from the NCAA Tournament Committee. When he received the tournament bid, Coach blurted out a relieved "Thank God," and smiled broadly. Everyone was happy for coach as he approached his farewell tournament. And even though MU lost a heartbreaker to Tennessee 57-56, Coach went out his way, still the Happy Warrior.

During his tenure as athletic director, Coach always kept the door open for former players, bringing them back for reunions, old timer games and other events, and introducing them to the new kids on the block on the teams of succeeding MU coaches. The former players helped pass on Coach's life lessons to the new players, especially those on life after basketball. Coach's role as athletic director allowed him to open up the Marquette family to other student-athletes on campus by providing scholarship opportunities for women's sports programs at MU, and elevating those programs to Division 1 status. All the while, Coach was extending the great legacy that he had started years before.

The more Coach gave of himself, the greater his stature grew. But he never changed. He treated everyone equally well, regardless of their station in life. Even as Marquette's senior statesman, he was still - as he wrote at the end of the Christmas cards he sent to my family - "Just an old coach." And just as with his players, Coach was always there with advice and encouragement for all of the coaches who followed Rick Majerus. Bob Dukiet, Kevin O'Neill, Mike Deane, Tom Crean and now Buzz Williams. Hank also was there for Doc Rivers as he negotiated his NBA coaching career, and even opposing coaches like UWM Coach Rob Jeter (a former MU assistant). His hug of Coach Jeter prior to an MU-UWM game, shortly after the passing of Jeter's father - former Green Bay Packer star Bob Jeter - was fondly remembered by those who attended the game." The gesture brought to mind one of the highest compliments that Coach received from his peers in the coaching profession: Christian gentleman.

Clad in his familiar gold sweater, Coach could always be seen at his regular spot at the scorer's table in the Bradley Center for MU games, offering a graduate class in basketball for those sitting near him. Coach was not just a fan of Marquette men's basketball, but of all MU sports. He and Jinny were regulars at the Women's games at the McGuire Center, in addition to MU soccer matches and other sports events on campus. Always chatting, glad-handing and sharing stories; touching all members of the MU family in his inimitable way, and somehow always remembering faces and names.

Even with all of the Hall of Fame honors Coach received during his lifetime (M Club, Wisconsin Athletic Association, Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, St. Louis University, St. Louis Sports, CBC, etc.), probably the greatest honor was having a scholarship endowed in his name. The Hank Raymonds Scholarship Fund dinners allowed Coach and his family to continue to give back to Marquette, even after he had officially retired as athletic director in 1987. It allowed him to give his greatest gift: unconditional love. He always gave the full measure in his life, whether it was time, money, advice or good wishes, and never expected anything in return. Upon his retirement, the university gave Coach a check for $10,000. He returned the check and requested that it be used to fund scholarships. As it turned out, that $10,000 was the seed money for what eventually became the Blue & Gold Fund.


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